Veteran news journalist Morley Safer has passed away, a week after CBS officially announced his retirement from its long-running newsmagazine 60 Minutes.
Safer, 84, had been the longest-serving correspondent with the series prior to his retirement, having joined the 60 Minutes team in 1970. His retirement was marked with an hour-long special which aired on CBS this past Sunday (May 15).
Born in Toronto, Safer began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter in Woodstock and London, Ontario before moving to the UK and landing a job with Reuters in London. From there, he returned to Canada and moved into television, working for CBC News in Toronto and then heading back to the UK to be a foreign correspondent for the Canadian public broadcaster.
After nine years with the CBC, Safer migrated to CBS News where he worked in its London bureau before opening its Saigon bureau in 1965 and covering the Vietnam War – a conflict that would provide him with perhaps the biggest, and most explosive, story of his career.
His 1965 report depicting U.S. marine actions in Cam Ne, including the torching of villagers’ huts, is often cited as the story that first brought the gravity of the conflict into the American public consciousness, making Vietnam “the living room war.”
The administration of then-U.S. president Lyndon Johnson denounced the coverage as “unpatriotic.”
As the 1970s began, Safer became part of an American journalism institution by joining the 60 Minutes team – a team that also included at various times such esteemed journalists and Harry Reasoner, Dan Rather, Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Lesley Stahl, Don Hewitt, Andy Rooney and Steve Kroft.
His reporting ranged from exposés to celebrity profiles, and garnered him 12 Emmy awards, three Peabody awards , two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia awards and a Lifetime Achievement Emmy from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2009.
“Morley was one of the most important journalists in any medium, ever,” said CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves in a statement. “He broke ground in war reporting and made a name that will forever be synonymous with 60 Minutes. He was also a gentleman, a scholar, a great raconteur.”
Upon the announcement of his retirement, Safer tweeted: “It’s been a wonderful run and I want to thank the millions of people who have been loyal to our broadcast.”